Rinsing Your Sinuses

August 13, 2023


I am a judgment broker who writes often. The first time someone reads or hears about rinsing out their sinuses (actually, there are four main hollow sinus cavities with many tiny pockets that all can hold mucus within your head and put pressure on your brain, I know this, most doctors do not), they usually think something like “yuck”.

However, after you learn more about nose rinsing, you might decide it is for you; either once in a while, or several times a day, depending on your needs. People usually learn about nasal rinsing when they have a serious allergy problem, cold, or nasal congestion; or work in a dirty and/or stinky situation, cleaning the sinus insides sounds like a good idea.

The basics of nose rinsing is to use about 8 ounces of warm salt water, at low pressure, guiding it up one nostril and letting it run down the other nostril; which removes a lot of the dirt, boogers, phlegm, etc. If no water flows out of your other nostril, and all the liquid comes out out of your mouth consistently, please see a competent doctor, not some Northern California Kaiser quack doctor, such as the incompetent Dr. Binn Ton.

There are several vendors of the cheap and simple devices and supplies needed for sinus rinsing. Perhaps the most popular, and the brand I used, is NeilMed; available at most drug stores, pharmacies, and online.

The basic requirements for a good nasal rinsing session includes a bathroom, a nose rinsing device, a microwave oven, pure water, a salt-based additive for the water, regular drinking water to rinse your mouth with, a soda or juice-like drink to remove any salty aftertaste, and (optionally?), some kind of entertainment.

Sinus rinsing is best done in the bathroom, because a sink is needed, and nose rinsing is messy and private; and is not something you want anyone to video and post online. Entertainment is optional, perhaps music or a podcast; while you do the deed, and during the draining time afterward. Entertainment and a ceiling fan also helps to mask any “funny” sounds you may make.

The cheap nose rinsing device(s) needed is either a squeeze bottle or a small vessel that looks like a teapot, a gravy-boat looking thing. No need to buy the more expensive powered-pump sinus rinsing devices. I do not like the gravy-boat type of devices, because they make it less convenient to mix in the salt mixture. The best devices seal, so there is the convenience of being able to add the salt mixture, and shake it to mix. If you use hot or cold water, or water with no salt; it will sting as you rinse. Warm, properly salted water does not sting. Clean water is required, for example distilled, or well-filtered water. A microwave oven is the quickest way to warm the water, and most nasal rinse equipment is microwave safe. It takes about 30 seconds to warm the water in the microwave.

The salt solution is made using salt and perhaps something else; however I prefer the cheap and convenient single-use packets made by NeilMed.

What does nasal rinsing feel like? It slightly reminds me of swimming. It should not hurt at all, and of course, you must breath through your mouth while your nose is full of water.

Sinus rinsing is done over a sink, with your mouth open most of the time. Keep your head leaned down and to one side, while you hold the device to allow the water to flow into one nostril and (sometimes eventually) out the other. Usually, you use half the water for each nostril.

Obviously, nasal rinsing is always done at low pressure because it is your face, and high pressure would be dangerous. With a squeeze bottle, you must squeeze gently; with a teapot or gravy-boat device, gravity does the work. Powered units use low pressure and/or low volume.

While you are rinsing, you alternate (gently and slightly) sniffing and then blowing your nose. Sniffing draws the water into the deeper upper areas. When the water comes back down, most of the junk and water comes out your nose, but some might come out of your mouth. This might cause a slight gagging sensation. If it is not comfortable, then stop and restart the rinsing, taking smaller sniffs, to release less junk per sniff.

After the salt water reservoir is nearly empty, you finish by blowing your nose and spitting a few times. Then, slowly tilt your head back for a few seconds, then a few seconds right and left, and then down (for ten seconds), and blow your nose and spit again.

Then, only if you are not totally plugged up; leaning your head to one side and gently plugging up one nostril with your finger or Kleenex, and then very gently blowing your nose, can help remove more junk much quicker.

In a minute or so, when you are mostly drained, take a sip of clean water and swish it around and then spit out any remaining salty taste. Then, take a sip of some soda or a tasty drink (at night perhaps a beer?), to put that better taste into place.

It may take up to an hour for the few remaining drops of water to drip out of your nose, however 99% comes out within 10 minutes or so. After 5-10 minutes you can leave the bathroom, however be ready to quickly return, or have a drain cloth near you. About 10 minutes later, lean your head down to release the last traces of trapped water. Obviously, one should not nasal rinse right before bed or leaving the house. A good tip is to gargle, gargling clears your sinuses well.

Some people with deep congestion may want to nasal rinse more than once, or more than once a day. It is better to gently rinse twice, than to force it all out on the first try. Also, the full benefit may not be known for an hour, so most people should wait a while before rinsing again. Also, many have found that sniffing a baggie of fresh cut onions can really help clean your sinuses!

Once you get used to nasal rinsing, you may enjoy it, especially the way you feel afterwards. I used to do nasal rinses daily for my nasal congestion, and nasal rinse sometimes when I BBQ or do yard work. Now, I rinse my sinuses by taking a mouth full of salt water, holding one nostril and my mouth closed, and sniffing while rotating my head in every direction. As I remind my doctor, sinuses are three-dimensional.

Due to GERD, I have chronic sinus congestion, I have found that using a vaporizer, Mucinex, weed, and exercise helps to clean out my sinuses. Also helpful is rotating your head in every direction and sniffing. Lastly, holding one nostril closed and keeping your mouth closed and breathing through your nose with a bit of force helps too.

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